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Daytona 500 pole winner Alex Bowman not rattled by new found attention  3 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Alex Bowman has had four days on top of the NASCAR world.

He seems to be the same guy who won the pole Sunday for the Daytona 500, the most important stock-car race in the world. After his pole-winning obligations were over, he returned home to Charlotte, relaxed a bit and then bounced back to Daytona Beach for a day of media and promotional duties on Wednesday.

For a 24-year-old with little national recognition, it’s been a new landscape for Bowman. He has been asked repeatedly to compare himself with Dale Earnhardt Jr., the guy he replaced in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and he’s been asked about the pressure that comes not only with that assignment but also the expectations that come with having a potent car in the Daytona 500.

The responses come easily for Bowman, despite his newness in this world. He knows the ropes, knows more will be expected of him because of the fact he’s sitting in a ride many drivers would sell their grandmother to have, knows his every move will be under greater scrutiny.

Yet he seems as relaxed as a middle school kid on the first day of summer.

“We’ve proved we can contend for wins,” Bowman said Wednesday. “We have to prove we can finish the job. I think I’m confident we can do that this year. I’m hired to win races and contend for championships. I’m going to do everything I can to keep the race car clean. It’s my job to do the best job I can, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

A year ago, Bowman wasn’t on the radar at Daytona. In fact, he was home in Charlotte watching the race on television. After subbing for the injured Earnhardt in 2016, Bowman sat out practically the entire racing season last year waiting on the No. 88 vacancy. He did hundreds of hours of work on a racing simulator. Sunday’s 500 will be his first Cup points race since November 2016.

He’ll end that “vacation” by driving one of motorsports’ most visible vehicles in one of the planet’s biggest races.

“I haven’t (super)speedway raced in a year, so it’s going to be tough,” Bowman said. “I have to get my feet back under me as far as speedway racing goes. Last time I drove the 88 at a speedway race, we ran third in The Clash. Before that, we ran second or third and spun out at Talladega.

"I think we’ll be pretty strong. We obviously have a fast race car. I just have to do my best  and keep it up front and out of trouble.”

Bowman ignited publicity Sunday by winning the 500 pole, an accomplishment but one he said rests mainly with the team.

“I think everybody is pretty realistic that it’s more race team and race car than it is driver in speedway qualifying,” he said. “I’m appreciative to drive the fast car here, and to be on the pole is special, but the credit doesn’t really go to me. It goes to the race team.

“It’s been fun to get to do everything that comes along with it, but I don’t want to say that I did anything special.”



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